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Sheep shearing at the farm

Today we had professional sheep shearer Aaron Loux  of Busy Corner Farm here at the the Hamsphire College Farm to shear our sheep. Sheep shearing has a long history, dating back at least to the Bronze Age in ancient Crete. Although sheep were originally shorn using sharp pieces of glass or metal (yikes!), blade shears were eventually invented and are still in use today. Aaron, however, utilized machine shears, the prototypes of which were invented in the late 1800s; as you can see in our videos (links below), they are much like human hair clippers.

(And, speaking of gear, check out his special sheep shearing moccasins, which are designed to protect the feet, grip floors that are slippery with lanolin, and absorb sweat.)

shearing moccasins

Sheep shearing moccasins

Sheep shearing is hard, hot work; it requires specific stances and stroke techniques designed for maximum efficiency and animal care, as well as a great deal of physical fitness. (One author I read compared it, unscientifically, to running five marathons in a day.) Competitive sheep shearing contests are held worldwide, particularly in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K., and Ireland. In our 95 degree weather, Aaron averaged about 2 1/2 minutes per lamb – way to go! Check out our video of today’s shearing. Here’s another one with a closer view.

As you can see, the lambs look much happier now!

shorn lambs

Freshly shorn lambs

Reeve Gutsell is the Food, Farm, and Sustainability Program Coordinator at Hampshire College. She has a Master's degree in Resource Management and Conservation, as well as a long-term interest in the intersection of agriculture, environmental issues, social justice, and food systems. She enjoys the walking around the farm in all types of weather, and almost always finds something beautiful or interesting to explore.

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